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Introduction to The Cider House Rules by John W. Irving

Published: 18.06.2013, Updated: 05.03.2017
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American Novelist John IrvingAmerican Novelist John Irving
Fotograf: Sophie Bassouls
The Cider House Rules
(1985) by John W. Irving centers on the life and development of Homer Wells, one of the orphans at St. Cloud's, which is both an orphanage and an abortion clinic. The orphanage is administered by Dr. Wilbur Larch who is both an obstetrician as well as covert abortionist. He has to inhale ether to withstand the pain he suffers from catching gonorrhea as a young man. Its prolonged use turns him into an ether addict. Under the influence of ether fumes, he rewrites The Brief History of St. Cloud's to fit his personal views and philosophies on the meanings of "being of use", the spiritual and physical needs of the orphans, as well as his own wishful imaginings of their lives. After personally experiencing the plight of women who have undergone illegal abortions, as well as and the sad lives of abandoned children, Dr. Larch attacks the existing, puritan views on abortions. Homer becomes both his protégé and surrogate son, whom he tries to protect from harm by creating a fictitious heart condition for him. There is a natural gloomy depression over the rural setting of St. Cloud's. The orphans are lulled to sleep each night by readings from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Charlotte Brontë's, Jane Eyre. Dr. Larch sends them to sleep with his,"Good night— you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England!". Rebelling against Dr. Larch's views on abortion, Homer tries to escape by driving off with a beautiful couple, Candy Kendall and Wally Worthington, who come to St. Cloud's for an abortion. They both work at and Ocean View Apple Orchard, the second setting in the novel. There is a huge range of characters, where their histories and harsh milieus are minutely described. Homer falls in love with Candy and while Wally is "missing in action", Homer even fathers her child. However, in the end he must choose between either leaving a girl to bear a baby by her own father or performing an abortion on her. This procedure is a precursor to his greatest decision whether or not to return to St. Cloud's and carry on the medical traditions after Dr. Larch.
(Editor's Note: We suggest that you follow the Comprehension Questions 1-7 and 8-11 as a guide while reading the novel)

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